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The First Medical Marijuana Dispensary In Southwest PA Opens Its Doors

The first medical marijuana dispensary in southwest Pennsylvania opened its doors Thursday.

CY+, located in Butler, is one of five dispensaries that have gotten the final “OK” from the state to begin selling cannabis. The owners of CY+ also operate the grow operation Cresco Yeltrah in Brookeville.

Diana Briggs, 47, lives about 40 minutes away from CY+ in Westmoreland County. Her son Ryan, 17, has epilepsy and she said this dispensary opening is “a dream come true,” so he can use medical marijuana. 

“For years we just thought this was what he had to deal with. And as a family we all dealt with it,” said Briggs, who is also the director for Campaign for Compassion, a medical marijuana advocacy group. “Ryan is healthier and more aware and alert than he has ever been, that has changed our entire family’s lives.”

Credit Diana Briggs
Diana Briggs said her 17-year-old son Ryan had up to 1,000 seizures a week. Now that he used medical marijuana this is down to fewer than 400.

Only people with certain medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, are allowed to purchase the product. Patients or caregivers must apply for an ID card through the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

No Pennsylvania dispensary has been able to make a sale yet. A state lab is in the process of testing Cresco Yeltrah's first harvest of medical marijuana, something that must be done twice before it can be sold.

Larry Clark, the deputy director of policy and field operations at the Office of Medical Marijuana at the state’s health department, said the product will be available to customers on February 15.

"This isn't your 'head shop,'" he said. "This is a medical facility that will be offering a medical product."

When marijuana is stocked, only staff and those with state-issued ID cards will be allowed inside dispensaries. So CY+ held the Thursday open house for media and community leaders to view the store, which had a somewhat spa-like aesthetic with distressed wood tables, soothing colors and polished concrete floors. 

Credit Diana Briggs
An ID card for Diana Briggs, that will allow her to purchase medical marijuana for her son.

“We’re also going to have some educational seminars over the next week until we actually have produce on the shelf,” said Trent Hartley, 53, one of the founders and co-owners of CY+. “[Today is] a way for the public to come in and see how secure it is and how inviting it is.”

Hartley said he and his partners plan to open two additional dispensaries, including one in Pittsburgh's Strip District. Every dispensary permit holder is allowed to operate in three locations, but each store must be in a different county.

In accordance with state law, none of the medical marijuana sold in Pennsylvania will be food or plant. Products will come in the form of capsules, oils, waxes, concentrates and tinctures. 

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.